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When uncertainty becomes the new normal, how can companies respond to changes?

01 Define resilience

Let us first give some definitions. “Resilience (i.e. elasticity)” was originally a term from the physical sciences, describing the ability of a material to absorb energy and return to its original shape after being deformed. For example: rubber is very elastic and generally returns to its original shape after being stretched, bent and compressed. bounce back.

However, even the elasticity of rubber is not endless. When stretch or pressure reaches a certain level, the rubber also tears and no longer returns to its original shape. Having a high degree of adaptability doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable, it just makes you less likely to be torn apart.

Imagine a windsurfer – to be successful in windsurfing, you have to learn to adapt. When the current or wind direction changes, surfers must adjust their body position and grip to navigate. When our life encounters some turbulence, we must also overcome the bumps of life.

My definition of resilience is: the ability to adapt effectively in the face of adversity and change. Most of us are at least able to adapt to small changes within a certain range. But as the change or challenge gets bigger, it becomes harder to adapt. Building resilience means building tools and habits of mind to improve resilience.

Three Myths about Resilience

Before diving into the discussion of resilience building, let’s talk about myths or misconceptions about resilience in my opinion. These must be forgotten if you are to successfully adapt to change.

1. Resilience is not a trait or a resource, but a skill.

Many people think that resilience is an innate trait, which is wrong. Things like eye color, freckles, or height are genetic traits. While some aspects of resilience also have genetic factors, such as inherited optimism and overall energy levels, the willingness to change and positive actions are more important.

Unlike savings in a bank account, resilience is not a resource that can be saved and spent when needed. We can think of resilience as a skill, specifically, a set of skills that can be learned, practiced, and improved upon. I’m not going to be as good at shooting 3-pointers as Stephen Curry, but with practice, I can definitely improve. So does resilience.

2. Resilience doesn’t mean being on your own, it’s about being dependent on others and being dependable.

The second myth is about the idea of ​​being on your own—the belief that resilient people are all on their own, that they are on their own and don’t need anyone. Such thinking is far from the truth. Any resilient company, individual, and community is one that is surrounded by people, has external support, and contributes to a shared future.

We have to let go of the idea that if one is really strong, one can be self-reliant – that’s not true, it never was. Don’t go it alone, don’t be brave.

Resilience is not just about absorbing stress and persevering, but about building relationships, giving and taking, contributing to greater good, and asking for help. The dream of living in isolation has always been an idealistic myth, rooted in America’s long-standing greedy expansion. It’s not easy, but we need to take mutual aid and cooperation seriously and let go of that idea.

3. Resilience requires not only advance thinking and planning, but also flexibility and non-rigidity.

Finally, being resilient doesn’t mean simply planning and anticipating every problem before it happens, some people will want to control all the variables and prevent bad things from happening. Consider all risks. Take the extra supply into account to allow a buffer period for the plan. Establish financial expectations as well as safety protocols.

Of course, these efforts can reduce the burden of known problems, but our world is too complex to account for all contingencies. A policy change at one big tech company can unbalance the industry, leading to layoffs, market volatility, and new opportunities. An investigative journalism story that ousts a senior leader can also create a power vacuum, leading to a rush of retirees and newcomers alike. The more carefully planned the plan, the more surprises will lead to changes in the results.

Resilience is a process. In the software industry, we no longer chasing super comprehensive test suites and QA, but more about continuous deployment and monitoring. Not that the former isn’t important, but because releasing new code (and) being able to roll back when needed is more efficient and achievable than expected for all potential problems.

An over-planning and over-analyzing mindset is also problematic, treating everything as a mental puzzle that needs to be solved. A lot of things about resilience are emotional in themselves. Being able to analyze one’s own feelings and express them to those around them (especially those that are uncomfortable), asking for help, forgiving one’s own mistakes, and forgiving others all take a different effort. Emotional awareness and vulnerability may be foreign and frightening to many, but they are essential for resilience.

02 Four tips for improving resilience

This framework is designed to help those who experience uncertainty, adversity and change. I devised this framework based on my experience in multiple startups, as a product owner, and as an executive coach while working with innovative leaders during turbulent times.

Although applicable to any system and environment, it is designed to help those seeking direction in disruptive change, enabling new products, new stories and ideas. Our goal is to help you move forward with greater clarity and health. In a future article, I’ll show you how to use these techniques in the specific context of restructuring—if you haven’t had the chance yet, maybe in the next few years.

Resilience is a set of skills that includes four basic items: Respond, Recover, Rebuild, and Reflect. Perhaps you have noticed that resilience itself and the four basic items (Respond, Restore, Rebuild, Reflect) all start with “re”, and the root words are “back”, “again” and “confrontation” respectively. against” and “re-anew”, the etymology can be extended to “threat wret”, that is, “change”. Since the core of “resilience” is to face the setbacks, obstacles, and changes that lead you to deviate from your own path, forcing you to start over.

Although I marked them 1-4, this is not strictly a sequential process. It depends on your current experience and where you are – you may find it more useful to “reflect” before “responding” or doing something else. However, if you don’t know where to start, you can continue to follow this sequence until you can adapt the techniques to your situation.

Tip 1: Respond

In early 2020, my startup Midgame was getting ready to show off our exciting voice gaming assistant to the masses at a Betaworks-sponsored Demo Day event, but the pandemic hit and quarantines kicked in. The fundraising situation changed immediately, and within a week of realizing we couldn’t get the fundraising, we responded to this sudden external change and started working on new concepts for a segregated world. While these ideas didn’t pan out, the efforts eventually led to the company’s mergers and acquisitions.

The first tip is for a changing new environment. Reasonable. When confronted for the first time with a changing situation in the world, the first response is that everything is more or less different.

There are three rules for responding to changes:

Embrace change. The first effective step is to accept the reality of change. We will always live with change, experience it and be in it. When we embrace change, we are prepared for it to come; denying it will only lead to being caught off guard.

Even knowing that change is coming, the change itself can cause stress and discomfort. But embracing change will help you see the possibilities for self-growth. If you think back to personal growth moments, they probably came during or after tensions and struggles. Not to say that all difficulties will bring rewards, but never stressful, unrealistic, and unwise, will block out many good things that come with change.

face the reality. The next rule is about seeing the status quo. Accurate data on the current situation needs to be collected and, after careful observation, give a fresh perspective to the current problem. It’s easy to be fooled by delusions and escapism, and in order to respond to change, we must truly understand what we’re dealing with.

In the face of a rapid decline in the memory chip business, Intel co-founders Gordon Moore and Andy Grove faced the reality of being fired and replaced by the board. They asked themselves, “Why don’t we just do what the new CEO is going to do?”, fired one-third of their employees (seven thousand people), and opted to double down on their new CPU business. Their decision to face reality allowed Intel to survive the collapse of its competitors and continue to lead the way in microprocessor manufacturing today.

Solve the problem. Take decisive action to prevent further damage from spreading. The captain of a ship knows that some things we can control, like how to sail and steer; but some things we can’t, like the weather or water conditions. To solve these problems, executors focus on areas they can control, such as strategy and execution, and abandon other areas beyond their control, such as short-term news coverage and stock prices. During the ill-fated Apollo 13 crisis, NASA’s flight commander, Gene Kranz, used the mantra “solve the problem” to get the mission control team to methodically address the most urgent problems, thereby Saved the entire crew.

Tip 2: Recovery

In college gymnastics class, I dislocated my knee when I landed, had to undergo multiple plastic surgeries, was on crutches for months, and had physiotherapy for over a year. In the end, though, I got back on the court, and we ended up winning the NCAA in my final semester. We all understand that physical setbacks take time and foreign objects to heal, but we generally don’t give ourselves the same tolerance when it comes to professional, social, or emotional challenges.

The second skill of resilience is to restore what has changed and make up for the missing parts of community and care.

Sign in. This strategy is about engaging with emotions and inner experiences. If you are a leader, it is the experience of leading others. How are you? What changes tipped the balance? Which needs have not been met?

In all of my startups, in addition to the day-to-day work at the company, I have regular “heart-to-heart” conversations with partners about how I feel. This allows us to support each other and avoid the excessive conflict of founders that Professor Noam Wasserman mentioned that 65% of high-potential startups fail as a result.

Ask for help. In this way, you will connect with the larger community, engage in dialogue and seek support. It could be empathy, asking for help, or sharing feedback on something that’s bothering you. This means admitting that you need others and rejecting the advocacy of “total independence.”

For many high achievers, asking for help may feel like an admission of failure. But aside from the headlines or overly flattering personal stories, all successful people have benefited from a community of collaborators, sponsors, and friends. Social psychologist Heidi Grant writes in the Harvard Business Review: “More than ever, your performance, development, and career progression depend on the resources you seek out advice, referrals, and need.” She also noted that more than three-quarters of the help collaborators gave each other came from direct requests.

Be caring. The third rule of recovery is to be kind and compassionate to yourself, and to those around you. Expressing concern means listening carefully when someone comes to you to solve a problem. It also means that even if you don’t agree, you can try to see things from someone else’s point of view. It also means forgiving yourself for your mistakes and failures (this behavior has been shown to lower cortisol levels and increase life satisfaction).

The key is to recognize this: Giving to others is not just about reciprocity. On the contrary, even if you feel like you have very little, helping others will show you that you have value and worth sharing. You’re no longer stuck with your own problems, and it’s a great way to relax and rejuvenate.

Tip 3: Rebuild

I was once sued by a notorious copyright speculator and was forced to pay a five-figure sum for an unprovoked transfer. I had to borrow money from a few friends and relatives to pay off the money. However, when I left that behind, I was able to explore new ideas like launching a cohort-based paid program with a designer (who became my wife).

In this third technique, we reactivate our understanding of our own desires and move forward with joy and purpose, appreciating every step along the way.

dream again. Change takes away not only some of our present, but also some of our future. When teams are restructured or projects are cancelled, your dreams for the future are shattered and new sources of hope must be found. As I recovered from my college knee injury, I had to accept that I couldn’t be the same again and gave up my dream of representing the United States in international competitions.

This strategy requires us to let go of our past dreams after mourning, find new areas of passion and excitement, and follow them into the future. We have to develop a vision for something new, and it may not happen overnight, but moving beyond change is critical.

perform the ceremony. This strategy is actually about the power to motivate behaviors that shape our identities. Kursat Ozenc, a lecturer in organizations and cultures at Stanford University, has written that rituals can be powerful means of promoting change because they generate “the intangible advantages of shared purpose, sense of meaning, and community connection.”

After adversity, people and groups often find an end point and move on through a series of meaningful actions: funerals, full team dinners. In addition to those important one-off moments, daily rituals and practices can also help us feel more grounded, prepared, and purposeful about life.

Celebrate victory. Sometimes we experience huge setbacks and feel like we’re so addicted to the past that we can’t find joy in it. At first, our steps towards our new dream were so indistinct, like building a fire, we had to add fuel to it. Scholar Teresa Amabile found in her research that a sense of continuous improvement is one of the important ways to cultivate the inner working life of a creative professional.

Dr. Amabier wrote in his book “Inspiring Drive”: “The more positive one’s emotions are on one day, the more creative thoughts one will produce the next day. In a way, even The same goes for the third day, and it even affects his mood for the next few days.” By finding and winning small wins, we can turn that small fire into a raging fire. We can maintain this momentum by finding ways to incorporate joy, gratitude and celebration into our lives.

4: Reflection

For more than a decade, I have spent a lot of time reflecting and publishing what I have learned about myself, my work, and the world. It has become a ritual that allows me to mark the past years and allow me to do my job more proficiently. Over the New Year’s Eve, I shared 12 points, including “Success doesn’t necessarily mean feeling good,” and “Stories are well told and convincing is hard to put into words.”

When our world changes, we must change with it. This means that we take the time to think and synchronize our most important values, philosophies and systems so that we can learn from this experience.

Do something meaningful. One of the benefits of change is that it shows us what really matters in our lives. When something you care about is at risk, you experience stress and discomfort. We can decide that maybe the thing (like getting a promotion, or being right about something) isn’t that important, and that helps us take some of the stress out of it. Or maybe we can decide that this thing is really important to us and that we should actually put more energy and attention on it before we can move forward.

Students who chose the goal of “greater than themselves” were more curious, more hopeful, caring, grateful, and interested than those who chose the goal of “focusing on self-focus.” They were better able to withstand stress and difficulty when psychologists asked them to describe and share how they lived out their deepest values.

closed loop. Our bodies maintain a complex set of systems—oxygen, blood sugar, thermoregulation, all of which operate through a series of feedback loops that maintain balance. Air Force strategist John Boyd teaches pilots to fight threats through the OODA loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The idea is to act fast and study how behavior can change the situation and gain an advantage from it. Closing the loop means taking in new information and those experiences and incorporating them into your work. Often, changes reveal weaknesses in your system, such as a tight left knee, an overexposed stock portfolio in a single industry, such as a technology platform failing at some point. Developing fail-safe and backup mechanisms ensures that these valuable experiences are not wasted.

Admit your own story. It is inevitable to be asked about one’s own experiences, struggles and past failures. So learning to tell those stories to yourself, to your peers, to strangers, and unrelated observers is the ultimate solution to adaptation. Those true stories reflect what we feel are important, help us to be more empowered, build trust for us and those who come to know us, and give us more confidence and purpose to achieve new dreams.

03 Resilience tradeoffs

We’ve covered the main benefits of building resilience, but it’s not a panacea. Like any other trait, regardless of speed, strength, reliability, and accuracy, putting effort into improving it leads to lower effort in other areas. There may be huge hidden dangers in making yourself or your team and your company more adaptable in thinking about problems.

• Reduced aggregation advantage: Increased resilience means breaking oneself apart. Resilience means creating contingency plans, setting aside additional resource reserves and not putting all your eggs in one basket. Choosing a balanced stock portfolio is less likely to lose money than putting all your cash in one meme stock*, but it’s also less likely to deliver huge gains overnight. Resilience prioritizes downside protection over upside maximization.

• Slow down: Being more resilient in action means it takes longer to assess form and prepare before action. Resilient entities rarely have first movers. A team focused on adaptability may be slow to operate, and may miss opportunities compared to teams that prioritize “move fast” or “go all out.”

• Loss of Control: A resilient mindset where one understands that not everything is under control and that calculated risks can go wrong. Wanting to operate with resilience means accepting failure, or not being able to work as planned. This lack of control and uncertainty can be uncomfortable for those who want to keep a firm grip on the situation.

Meme stocks: Certain types of stocks, which have become the darling of stock trading because of Internet trends, have gained a fanatical following simply because of the hype on the Internet and social media platforms.

These flaws do exist, but in a world of increasing change, there is no doubt that building resilience can bring enormous benefits to the vast majority of people.

The past few years have been like a relentless avalanche of change—the pandemic, wildfires, racial issues, continued gun violence, and growing polarization. Nothing is ever the way it was before, and time will only move forward linearly.

But even as we mourn the lost world, we can use resilience techniques to write our comeback stories. It must not be forgotten that the human race has endless adaptability. We have learned to live in almost any climate and geography on Earth, raising a variety of plants and animals, and living in different lifestyles and cultures. We have also expanded the scale of human society through devices and services that seemed like magic to people a few generations ago.

Resilience is always in our blood, and we can develop the strength to face the future.

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